An enterprise typically has a myriad of networks including: a LAN for its desktops and servers; a WiFi network for its users to wander the facilities with laptops, ePads and Smartphones that sometimes browse WiFi; its VoIP network that is linked to some carrier network for inbound/outbound calling; a Public Address (PA) System for announcements; a Paging network; an email system; social networks like Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn; camera monitoring networks; access control systems; fire monitoring systems; etc. It is thus no surprise that an organizational critical and emergency system cannot assume that all users can only be reached through SMS, email or Voice. As such, in an emergency, First Responders agree that the enterprise needs to leverage all its networks to deliver critical and emergency alerts to targeted groups or en masse paying special attention to all the personal mobile devices people are using today. See www.amikamobile.com under AMS products. I wrote a version of this Amika Mobile blog entry in 2012 and it essentially still applies today. If anything, we have more social networks to connect on and people are relying even more on their mobile devices as their primary communication tools. ..Sue Abu-Hakima, CEO Amika Mobile
As more and more enterprise users bring their own devices to work, referred to as BYOD (according to Gartner). BYOD has to be part of the set of devices that Critical & Emergency Notification Systems Alert to. At any one time, a user in the enterprise can be addressed by anywhere from 3 to 6 devices – desktop, desk phone, business mobile phone as well as digital tablet, laptop and possibly a second personal mobile phone. As such, the emergency alerting system needs to address all these user identities. Typically, the mobile devices are addressed by hard-coding email addresses and phone numbers in contacts databases. This is certainly not good enough as users cannot be tethered to their desks. This is why auto-discovery of user devices is essential for a practical emergency alerting system. See www.amikamobile.com under AMS products. I wrote this blog originally May 4th, 2012 and have made essentially no modifications as this all still applies besides referring the reader to the AMS. ..Sue Abu-Hakima, CEO Amika Mobile
Recovery of the workplace after an incident is by no means a simple process. Depending on how violent the incident is – from a minor physical injury such as a slap, a punch or a kick to a major one such as someone being stabbed, shot or even killed, there will have to be a set of policies and procedures for the workplace and teams at work to heal. Five things immediately come to mind to help heal as supported by OSHA: Time off – as long as they need – some employees will recover and some will not and will need to go on extended leave; Change of offices may be needed depending on the violence of the act, to another town, city, or even state; Recognition of the terrible incident with a memorial or plaque or garden to honor any loss of life; Allowing people to grieve since people will react differently; Allowing people to heal and being sensitive to their process; Re-educating people on the code of conduct in the workplace and learning to recognize individuals and situations that will boil over before it is too late. The length of time to recover will be dependent on the individuals and their ability to cope. It is essential to have policies and procedures in place to deal with workplace violence which is sadly becoming so prevalent today. ….Sue Abu-Hakima, CEO Amika Mobile
Reporting workplace violence can take many forms. According to OSHA, a zero tolerance policy that is clearly communicated to employees is best. Minor workplace incidents need to be observed and reported. A single workplace incident of verbal abuse or bullying (goading and embarrassing a fellow employee) may occur regularly before it escalates or boils over to a major act of physical violence. This is why all incidents should be reported to a manager or team member as soon as they occur. A zero tolerance policy also means that someone will be escorted out by security if they harass or bully anyone in the workplace, which in itself should help as a deterrent to avoid major escalation. If a major incident occurs such as assault, including sexual or physical harassment, then it should be immediately reported to the authorities following the policies and procedures of the workplace, so that the individual may be removed from the workplace and charged by authorities. The policies and procedures in the workplace must include protocols if a major act of violence takes place. Sometimes, these policies should require a lockdown in combination with 911 calls to police, if a shooting or stabbing is occurring. Sometimes, these policies require panic alarms (from those on employee mobiles or desktops or from wall-mounted ones) that alert security teams in the building to the location of the employees under threat, and these teams will determine when to call 911. Very often in the workplace, employees do not want to report harassing incidents or assaults as they are embarrassed or concerned about retaliation. It is essential to ensure employees feel safe in reporting such incidents to someone on their team or to their managers. It is also very important that the managers or team members take these reported incidents seriously, and report them up the chain so that they may be addressed and tracked, to ensure that smaller incidents do not result in a major violent act. ….Sue Abu-Hakima, CEO Amika Mobile
Many recent events at the workplace have escalated into violence with knives and shootings. In the US, every year according to OSHA there are a staggering 2 Million incidents reported. Recently, in Toronto CBC reported that an employee was being fired when he then attacked his colleagues and stabbed 4 of them within minutes. Similarly, in Nanaimo on Vancouver Island, a man shot 4 of his colleagues leaving 2 dead and 2 critical. It is essential for security officers in the workplace to think about issues in advance and bring the C-suite in to help ensure that there are technology capabilities in the workplace to help limit the violence. Three main technology areas come to mind: Panic buttons, Lockdown technology and critical and emergency communication software. Panic buttons can be on mobile phones for employees or those at risk, for front office staff employers can consider desktop, wall-mounted, or even foot pedal panic buttons. Panic buttons can also be linked to technology that triggers lockdowns of all doors and windows in critical or emergency situations. Finally, mass communication capabilities quickly alert employees on all communication layers and keeps them informed with security team 2-way communications as the situation is diffused and control is taken back from the attacker(s). …Sue Abu-Hakima, CEO Amika Mobile
Through my experience leading teams for decades and according to the American Psychological Association (APA), there are 5 key factors in ensuring a healthy workplace for employees. These factors help mitigate the risk of workplace violence. First, empower employees to control their workplace environment and careers with open dialogue and take their suggestions for improving the workplace. Second, encourage a healthy work-to-life balance with flex hours, vacations, and leeway if they need to care for loved ones. Third, facilitate career development and goal setting with access to continued education and tuition reimbursement. Fourth, encourage a healthy and safe workplace by encouraging employees to maintain a good fitness level possibly through workplace team sports and help them work through stress if possible and refer them to professional medical or counseling if their personal situations warrant. Finally, employees should be recognized for outstanding performance and celebrations of success should be encouraged. …Sue Abu-Hakima, CEO Amika Mobile
A key aspect to reducing workplace violence is education. There are many resources to look at on the web including some comprehensive ones from the Office of the Safety and Health Administration or OSHA. There are some rules of thumb in terms of making employees aware of potential violence and to prevent escalation. Employees need to be aware of any form of harassment and be provided with confidential methods to report it. Make sure everyone knows what the expected code of conduct or workplace behavior should be - role playing with a safe external third party running it to ensure people can recognize harassment may be worthwhile. Make sure work teams get along and differences are accepted. Be ready to get HR or an external consultant involved if any behaviors seem off or begin to escalate. If an employee needs to be removed, ensure adequate security is provided to avoid recent incidents like the workplace shootings or stabbings in Toronto and elsewhere. ….Sue Abu-Hakima, CEO
Workplace violence from bullying is very real with nearly 50% of US employees experiencing or observing some form of bullying in their careers. According to the Canadian Initiative on Workplace Violence the violence can take on any form of harassment be it verbal or physical. Every state in the US and every province in Canada has laws that are intended to protect employees from workplace violence and it is the fiduciary responsibility of the employer to ensure their employees are safe. It is very important to educate employees on what workplace violence and harassment are and to keep them vigilant so that it does not escalate. Many resources on-line exist today that can help educate employees on this. There are also a number of consultants that can help educate employees on what to look for to avoid escalation to very violent acts. …Sue Abu-Hakima, CEO Amika Mobile.
Today is a day of remembrance for 14 women who lost their lives in Canada’s worst school shooting 24 years ago on Dec 6, 1989. It is a day when the young engineering women students were separated from their colleagues and shot because of their gender. Many of their young engineering male colleagues who were ordered out of the classroom by the gunman had to endure the guilt of having lived. One of the young men sadly committed suicide because of his guilt and his parents subsequently committed suicide as they could not live without him according to CBC. Many others have dedicated their lives since that sad day to ending violence against women. We salute you and we do not forget and we will continue to work hard to make our world and schools a safer place. ….Sue Abu-Hakima, CEO Amika Mobile
As we draw to the close of November and American thanksgiving, we are nearing the sad anniversary date of Dec 14, 2012 where 26 innocents were shot for no apparent reason other than that of a seemingly very disturbed and angry young man as per the recent editorial in the LA times. As we respect the request of the community to quietly remember those innocents, let us not forget the 9,900 that have also perished in shootings according to the Huffington Post. This Dec 14th at 9:35 am, we will all quietly remember and continue in our resolve to make the innocents safer as we continue to focus on keeping others out of harm’s way. ….Sue Abu-Hakima, CEO Amika Mobile.
The 10th and final means to ensure better school safety is to leverage technology where you can and make it fit into your emergency planning. As more and more students and faculty are walking around with mobile phones, you have the perfect mechanism to help keep them in the loop in critical situations. There are a myriad of technologies to choose from so it is important to look at your needs at the school to minimize your risks. If you have WiFi deployed, you can leverage that as all Smartphones today are deployed with WiFi. You can also leverage SMS, Email and Callouts to the phones. For the computers, laptops, ePads and electronic blackboards – you can leverage Pop-ups. You can also leverage access control systems to trigger lockdowns in the school when an active shooter is detected. Today’s world is very technologically rich in comparison to even 5 years ago – as such, we would likely save many lives if we leverage the technology properly. ….Dr. Sue Abu-Hakima, CEO Amika Mobile www.amikamobile.com
A number of templates are available for Emergency Plans by searching the web and contacting organizations like DHS which dedicates resources and an entire area on their web site to School Safety. There are some basic rules of thumb when formulating emergency plans: 1) consult with your school district or board – there is likely a process and a template for a plan for your are; 2) put together a committee that would represent the leadership of the school, the security team at the school, the community, and first responders; 3) once you have formulated a plan, make sure you review it quarterly and every time there is an incident, to ensure that the plan meets your school’s needs and strengthen it where you can; 4) make sure your emergency plan has very clear evacuation paths in the case of emergencies and ensure that these are posted in all areas (classrooms, hallways, stairwells, etc.), 5) ensure your emergency plan has room to contact the parents and community nearby to make sure everyone is on the same page; 6) publicize your plan as a living document and disseminate it to those you believe should be aware of it and accept feedback as there may be things you missed. ….Dr. Sue Abu-Hakima, CEO Amika Mobile www.amikamobile.com
As schools are heading out for the summer, it is a good idea to review school safety and carry out an audit of how safe the school is. There are a number of resources on the web such as this list from the Virginia School District and modified by the NY State Police. In the audit there are a number of areas to examine such as the exterior of the school and the play areas. Also important are the various zones such as the various entrances, the drop-off zones, etc. Another key area is the interior of the school and how all the windows and doors close and shut and those in the high risk areas (such as front office, main floor windows and doors, basement windows, back doors, etc.) can be secured or locked in an emergency. Another important area is the two-way communication between staff, the office and first responders for emergencies such as fires or attacks. Key is also alerting the student population and allowing 2-way communication with those in need as well as parents and the community. In addition, policies and procedures should be reviewed annually to ensure that they can be met and improved on based on the previous year. Finally, on-premise personnel and their training in life safety and security can be audited to ensure that the immediate response as the emergency arises before first responders get there is in line with the situation. … Dr. Sue Abu-Hakima, CEO Amika Mobile
According to research reports, nearly 80% of kids today carry a mobile phone. Having such a device may not have always been a great idea for schools, however, the reality of today is that most parents are insisting that their kids have a phone and be allowed to use it in an emergency. As such, if an emergency does happen in a school, there is a lot more than just the fire alarm and PA system to rely on. Even the WEA alerts from FEMA can be received in a weather-emergency affected area by enabled mobile phones. Some kids also carry a laptop or an ePad and many classrooms are equipped with computers and electronic blackboards. In a critical situation or emergency, all these devices can be alerted from 1 console with an alert that would Pop-up the information on the phones, computers, laptops, TV monitors in common areas, deliver text messages to the mobile phones, announce over the PA, etc. Amika Mobile has taken the approach to ensure that any and all devices be they wired or wireless be alerted in a true emergency by supporting 18 layers for those alerts. …Dr. Sue Abu-Hakima, CEO Amika Mobile
A key mechanism that can also be effective with isolation zones is locking down a room or set of rooms within an area that can be accessed from a hallway. This is important not only for schools but for any facility where someone from the public is likely to walk into the facility with a gun for whatever reason. There are many lockdown mechanisms on the market today for schools, hospitals, etc. As zones are separated to secure an area, the locks in the areas where people can be protected should be activated automatically to safeguard students or others in those rooms. Lockdowns need to be regularly practiced in all academic institutions. At the moment, they are regularly practiced in many schools (not all) but should be mandatory for all Universities and Colleges as well. …Sue Abu-Hakima, CEO Amika Mobile